ANGELINA JOLIE (AP Photo/File)
Angelina Jolie is used to creating a buzz in the entertainment world, but now she has crossed over into the health care field with her recent announcement in a New York Times op-ed article. On May 14, in the op-ed “My Medical Choice,” Jolie announced that she had underwent a preventative double mastectomy after undergoing genetic testing and finding that she had a mutation of the BRCA 1 gene, which significantly increases her risk of developing breast cancer.
In her op-ed, Jolie wrote, “My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.”
Jolie underwent the mastectomy, which is the partial or complete surgical removal of one or both breasts, in her case both, then had reconstructive surgery.
While many are praising her for her preventative measures, others disagree with her actions, calling them extreme.
“I was a little surprised that she would take such measures to have that surgery with no diagnosis,” said Debbie Norrell, a New Pittsburgh Courier columnist, but more importantly a more than 20-year breast cancer survivor. “I could see if she had been diagnosed with it in one or both breasts. I think it’s a very radical method and I wouldn’t advise it for everybody. And everybody couldn’t afford what she did.”
Norrell, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, said after being diagnosed, she read up on her options and opted for a lumpectomy, a surgical removal of a lump, then underwent several weeks of radiation and took Tamoxifen.
She said that as years go on, people are doing a lot of the things to treat this disease, but she’s happy with her decision. “I’m happy with my decision, the only this I wish I would have done is had reconstructive surgery.”
According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation website, breast cancer is the most common cancer among African-American women and although incidence in African-American women is lower than in White women, for women younger than 45, incidence is higher among African-American women. The site also states that in 2013, an estimated 27,060 new cases of breast cancer and 6,080 deaths were expected to occur among African-American women.